The Astro
In the up and coming area of Santa Rosa, this newly remodeled motel is disguising itself as a space age stop with down to earth rates.  A collection of 34 rooms and 2 king suites with kitchenettes display colorful art and area rugs on glossy cement floors with white shutters that cover the entire window for privacy, unlike typical motel curtains. Funky furniture combines with luxe appliances and fixtures and the Casper bed (our first), which is awesome. Quirky in a really good way, the only concern is limited parking, but the manager can fix that with a locked lot behind the building. Just ask if it’s not offered.  The warning about car safety felt a little sketchy from our window view of the tattoo parlor but hey, there were no negative incidences and you cannot beat the price for sparkling clean accommodations. If you love the furnishings, and you will, they are available for purchase as well as a local book in partnership with the Spinster Sisters where supper in another eclectic setting is sure to please any palette. The Astro is a 5-minute walk from the SOFA district of Santa Rosa and a 5-minute walk to downtown.  Pastries and coffee are complimentary or walk across the street to Dierk’s Parkside Cafe where savvy locals line up for a table.


Kendall Jackson
One of the most widely recognized of the 400 plus wineries in Sonoma County, KJ features much more than will ever be found on your local store shelf.  The Estate Tasting Room and grounds are grand and spacious enough for any special event, inside and out. Grapes are produced in Santa Barbara, Mendocino and Napa as well as Sonoma Counties. Their onsite demo vineyard grows 26 varieties with 16 types of trellises.


Charles M. Schulz Museum
Charlie Brown, Lucy and the gang are forever commemorated in their creator’s museum which even has Schulz’ office corner and drawing desk. He wanted to cartoon from kindergarten age and received 1000’s of rejections before making it big time. There is much to learn here about the art and rules of cartooning for newspapers. The innocent yet deep philosophy portrayed by Linus, Sally and the rest is accentuated in creative ways throughout this awe-inspiring museum.


Downtown Santa Rosa
Schulz’ Peanuts characters are positioned for photo ops here and there around town where over 120 specialty shops, bars and restaurants avail. The Beer Barron is where we met Brad Calkins, Executive Director of Visit Santa Rosa. Sitting on the patio across from the park, we had to ask about the Tubbs fire devastation the previous year. Santa Rosa lost three hotels, one winery, twelve restaurants and many homes, quite sad. Yet, we never saw a sign of the travesty but rather, a town that rose from the smoke and ashes.

The Beer Barren covers all beverage bases with clever cocktail mixology. We tried the American Dream since we try to live it. Blood orange vodka concocted with ingredients not found in anyone’s pantry was not too sweet and most refreshing. Brad who likes the beer here, met his wife at a golf tournament and highly recommends we return to check out the fairways less traveled such as Rooster Run in Petaluma which implemented one of the first online tee times.


The Links at Bodega Harbour
This trip we were thrilled to play The Links at Bodega Harbour with Chris and Keith, Endologics employees who live in Santa Rosa and frequent Bodega Bay. Local knowledge was a great help. The Kemper Sports managed property sits on the northern California coast line that was made famous by the Alfred Hitchcock movie, “The Birds.” Today, people, not birds flock to the village for relaxation, serenity, and great golf. The Links is one of the rare golf courses with shared design philosophies by iconic designers we love – Robert Trent Jones Sr. on the front nine and Jr. on the back nine. Just off Hwy 1, an hour north of San Francisco, and a half hour from Santa Rosa, an eerie fog bank encapsulated the oceanside course as we set out on an unusually cool day. Coming from Santa Rosa where temperatures were in the 90’s, we encountered a stark contrast to the lower 40’s on arrival. We bundled up, then buckled up for a wild ride on the bodacious Links at Bodega Harbour where the harbor seals are barking, and the fog horn is blowing. The first few holes played within the housing development, but we soon climbed to an elevated hilltop with views of the harbor and beach. Elevations change often throughout the course with ponds, high mounding and a protected wildlife sanctuary on the back nine where two holes are walking only. Boardwalks provides tee access and green egress to restrict the protected area. Ocean waves are heard approaching the 16th green and seen up close if you walk over the berm. It was an incredible clear sea/sky view, sans the fog. After golf, Chris and Keith recommended Blue Water Bistro to recap our round. Bingo!! The ocean, bay and village views from the lounge with plush sofas and a stone fireplace makes a perfect spot for sipping the best of Sonoma County wines with a bite to eat.


Russian River Kayaking
Russian River has always been one of our favorite sources for Pinot Noir, so we were pleased that our Getaway Adventures guide was running a bit late after our Bodega Harbour run. The rest of our kayak group had already cycled to wineries in the morning and were having lunch at Ektimo Vineyards. Could we meet them there?  You bet!  We were so impressed by Julius’ tastings in this boutique winery that we ordered some bottles for our anniversary.

Kayaking paired well after the tasting. We all floated gently down the quiet stream until the occasional encounter with flotillas of intoxicated youths in tubes, all courteously waving us by. The leisurely trip down the Russian River past little encampments and lots of water fowl is a great way to spend an afternoon, at one with nature.


Vintner’s Inn
The Inn in Santa Rosa was full, so we loved The Astro but staying here will be our Santa Rosa mulligan. The lush grounds were busy with wedding details. Dinner at John Ash at the Vintner’s Inn was an adventure for the taste buds. The family estate wine is Ferrari Carano which we discovered earlier this year at the Jekyll Island Whiskey, Wine and Wildlife Festival and again midyear in Reno at the Silver Legacy which they also own. It is a wine our lips want to meet again and again.


St. Francis Winery & Vineyards

The bright floral entrance and monastery architecture are impressive along with the statue of St. Francis (protector of animals) and a bell which tolls on the hour for all of whom partake. The cheese and wine pairing on the patio is enhanced by a view of the mountain and vineyards. If energetic, a walk to the top of the mountain would reveal the Golden Gate bridge. For more hiking, the Trione-Annadel State Park nearby has over 5,000 acres and 50 miles of trails.

 

 

 

Safari West
This place deserves a whole book. Glamping in the stilted tents with exotic sounds of birds and animals without flying over the ocean is a real treat. Having been to South Africa, experiencing cocktails with reticulated giraffes in the wild, we were hesitant to visit Safari West, fearful it would be a little hokey but not so, at all. Zach, our Aussie conservation biologist, took us through the walking zoo first with interesting facts about all the furry and feathered residents. There are 150 species and 890 individual animals to view. Zach introduced us to “his girlfriend, Covey,” a scallop ibis from Nepal who followed his every move until he closed the aviary gate and we embarked on our jeep safari over the hills and through the woods meeting various herds. Our final viewing on the ride was the rhinos’ home. In South Africa we were the first humans to witness a baby white rhino stumbling to his feet by his mama. We were even more moved to know his dad was poached before his birth. At Safari West, they have been hoping their two rhinos would mate but had not shown any sign of interest to date. Don’t you know, we lingered as they were playing with one another, chasing, flirting, bumping, and running in a way Zach had never seen. Perhaps we inspired them and can return some day to witness their first baby. Conservation education is the name of the game at Safari West and all the animals are lucky to be here.  Owner Peter Lang valiantly worked with staff and then solo through the night against advice, to hose down the flames from the Tubbs’ fire saving his creatures even while his own house burned. Peter was raised on the sets of Daktari and Flipper with his filmmaker dad, Otto Lang. He met his wife on Safari in Africa. Perhaps it was animal attraction and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Santa Rosa area has great golf courses, sure, but the wineries and other adventures make it an unforgettable destination.